Thursday, August 12, 2010

Let's Make a Deal

I'm very sad, and I really don't know why. I can't even blame hormones. That was mostly last week. (Well, I can always blame everything on hormones, I'm so completely wacked-out.) I was promised by my oncologist when this whole thing started that I was 75% likely to go into menopause from the chemo. Because of my detour into chemically-induced lala land, I only had half the number of treatments I was scheduled for. (So you know, it's a dirty little secret, doctors load you up with a few extra rounds of chemo to protect themselves from lawsuits.) My three rounds (six treatments) I completed were probably more than enough to kill the cancer. And so far it has. My doctor has announced me as cured. Why am I just not so excited by this news?

He did say, after I survived the ARDS that someone would have to put a gun to his head to make him give me more chemo. Okay, that's a pretty cool thing to say. (Boy, was he relieved I was alive. He was my Dad's oncologist 32 years ago. I think Mom wouldn't take too kindly to having had him be part of the team that killed her daughter. Mom's not too happy with any of them right now truth be told. She was so sweet, almost under her breath she said to me not too long ago, "I wanted so much better things for you." I find this sweet and very moving. She usually doesn't speak to me like that. Oh, she'll talk to me about my illness, but I know she very conscious to avoid saying things that might make me feel worse than I already do. Nice Ma.

Hormones, where was I? Ah, at my svelte 85 pounds upon leaving New York Hospital, I assumed menopause had come and gone. Forgot all about it and focused on learning how to teach my body to function again like a person. That first year or so I was not a person. Not at all. I was working my ass off to be one, but I still had a long way to go. Now I know why they don't have mirrors in hospitals. I think if had to look at myself every day, I'd lose all desire to recover. I'd look and say, "How the fuck can I recover from this?" I was repellent. There's no way around it. I was an object to be pitied. I hated being an object of pity. How did I know I was the object of pity? I'd sure pity me if I saw myself like that. And hell, I might look and say you shouldn't bother with me and just waste away in some corner.

I guess I never looked at myself at home. It would also require my being able to stand up in front of a mirror which I was not able to do for quite some time. Hormones. I did start talking about hormones? I pee in the commode. (I hadn't yet graduated to toilets either. At least I was off diapers. But there was a reason for the diapers.)

There are a whole mess of horrible "hospital infections" that are dangerous as hell. I guess from one of the many blood tests that were taken every day, my doctors discovered that I contracted c. difficile. It makes its home in your colon, wreaks furious havoc on your lower intestine which is then at risk of bursting and spreading infection throughout the entire body. Dead as a post. Done. Finito. Once this happens, you are toast.

There two options. In the Box where Carol Merrill is standing are two doctors. Chip and I had never seen them before and they rush into my room-just like on TV- and say "We must remove her lower intestine THIS VERY SECOND or she'll die!" Huh? Wha? Very dramatic. Too much emoting, even. I'd do another take, but I'm not the director.

If I do without the surgery, the disease will insinuate itself so quickly into my lower intestine that it will burst like an overfilled balloon, spread disease and infection throughout my entire body and it's sayonara, Franny Baby. These fearless surgeons would remove my large intestine and trade it for a colostomy bag. "But of course, we'll reverse the whole thing, but we have no time to's going to blow, captain." Well they didn't say it quite like that but that's what they said. The problem here is that did I even have the physical strength to survive this operation? That surgeon of mercy might save you horrors of a burst lower intestine at the cost of the your life. Nice.

Let's make a deal. You can choose the Box- Option no. 1- where the lovely Carol Merrill is standing or take what's behind the curtain. (Audience goes wild: "curtain, box, no curtain!") "I choose what's behind the curtain." (applause, applause.) Monty Hall: "Fran's chosen what's behind the curtain. Tell her what's she's won!" Announcer: "Fran, you have just received a pass from the head of infectious diseases, your oncologist, and the attending in the ICU to have your Gastroenterologist see how you feel tomorrow morning! Congratulations, Fran!" (More applause, applause.) Music up. Roll credits.

How did the docs come to this conclusion? Chip said he would agree to go ahead with the operation ONLY IF the head of infectious diseases, our oncologist, and the ICU attending all agreed it makes sense for me. The head of infectious diseases says, "Hey, we only have one burst intestine a year. We already had one, so we can wait on this one till tomorrow." Sounded reasonable to everyone.

That is how they decided to let it go 'til tomorrow. I didn't know this until later, but Chip thought he was going to lose me that very night. I was just blithely casual about the whole thing. It really hadn't sunk in to me that these could be my last few hours (?) on earth.

I lived all right. I just had a sore lower abdomen. My gastronenterologist came by and was in the middle of his instant szimoidoscopy when rounds came through. Here I am. 85 pounds. Straw-like hair that sort of looks like Buckwheat's but not as good. Stark naked while these kids and the child resident peruse me and discuss my case. I have never felt so ugly in all my life.

Anyway, we were right to pick the curtain Dr. Gastro said no surgery necessary, but I needed to take lots of powerful antibiotics to kill this sucker, and they have the added bonus of making everything you eat taste like chalk. And the fact that I wasn't eating wasn't a good thing, but now I had a real excuse. The key symptom of c. diff is completely, uncontrollable diarrhea. But since I wasn't eating, I had to wear diapers to catch the uncontrollable clear gel that popped out of my body whenever it felt it needed to. And do I have a great husband or what? He changed so many of those goddamned diapers. And the grooviest part is, he still wants to fuck me! For real! That's love. (Wow.)

Hormones. This is supposed to be a post about hormones. The commode. Ages after I got released, I peed in the commode as usual. And Chip picked it up to clean it out and said "Honey, is this your period?" Holy moly, in that damned commode floating in my pee was a ribbon of red. "Chip, my God, it is." And now I get cranky whenever the hormone gods see fit. At least I may not be thrilled with what I see in the mirror, but I'm no longer an object of pity. In my world. That's huge progress.

And I've since graduated to a toilet.

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